It’s been more than 25 years since the Premier League adopted the model we all know and cherish today. During the two and a half decades of most attractive football on the continent – and on the globe arguably – it was not only the game that went through a change. Alongside the evolution of football, style of play and the overall pace of the sport, the industry changed as well.Perhaps the biggest example of change is a shirt sponsorship evolution, which stands as a firm testament to Premier League’s rapid financial development.
The Soft Era
Pardon the pun attempt for the title of this category, but the beginning of the Premier League marks a great opportunity for one. The early years of England’s top flight saw plenty of clubs turn to Alcohol or Software/IT companies for shirt sponsors. The total of 13 Premier League clubs, including the likes of Aston Villa, Chelsea, Sheffield Wednesday and others had companies such as good old Commodore written on the front of their shirts.
Alcohol brands featured prominently with clubs such as Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea again, Tottenham Hotspur or Derby County with the total of 12 clubs signing an Alcohol brand for a shirt sponsor in the early years of the competition. Liverpool nurtured a long-standing partnership with Carlsberg which lasted until the 2009/10 season and they are the undisputed winners of the Alcohol era which had five sides from the top seven in 1994/95 with Alcohol brands on their shirts.
The Gambling Era
The second half of the two decades of the Premier League saw a huge shift of interest with Premier League clubs realising that shirt sponsorship deals are actually generators of potentially lucrative profit. We saw more and more Premier League clubs teaming up with companies belonging to the financial sector. After their partnership with Carlsberg came to its end, Liverpool switched to Standard Chartered, whereas a growing number of clubs opted for an alternative industry – closely related to finances – gaming and casino.
As stated in, the Premier League 2017/18 season saw a remarkable increase in a number of clubs with gambling or casino companies as their shirt sponsors. Despite the criticism from anti-gambling campaigners and an increasing operation aimed toward football gambling suspension, the trend is still strong. Ten years ago, there were only four Premier League clubs with gambling or casino companies on their shirt, whereas that number currently stands at nine, which is more than double.
The reason is quite simple when you think about it. Football has long become synonymous with betting and the biggest companies such as bet365 – who are a proud sponsor or Stoke City – or a number of foreign betting operators simply identified a way to tap into a lucrative Premier League market. The numbers behind shirt sponsorship deals are intimidating and offer an eye-opening insight into the marketing evolution of the Premier League. Over the past eight years, the total value of shirt sponsorship deals has nearly tripled – rising from £100 million to staggering £282 million.